I have been talking a lot recently about the value of taking a content led approach and the role that plays in delivering successful digital marketing programmes. Not exclusively but especially around destination marketing and putting content at the center of what you do.
Those of you who know me will already know that I am endlessly fascinated by how people and organisations work. Sometimes extremely successfully but unfortunately often hideously unsuccessfully! Achieving success in digital is often about the sum total of many small parts. The way clients and agencies work together is changing. Getting the right people on the job and creating the right environment for those people to thrive is more important than ever.
In pursuit of achieving that I have become increasingly interested in models around organisational maturity with respect to content marketing. They come in many flavours. Some feel more applicable to larger corporate business. For example, the one outlined as part of Content – The New Marketing Equation developed by the consultancy Altimeter. Others feel more practical and actionable in smaller organisations or individual business units. The one covered in the white paper Content Changes Everything by Ariad is a good example. Worth downloading.
I’ve interpreted this one around the kind of business problems I am facing within the specific organisations I am working. There are five stages to achieving content maturity and they go something like this:
One. You realise you have a problem
You have invested in technology and channels but your focus is still very much on the products and services you provide. You are still in sales mode rather than figuring out how you might be genuinely useful to your customers. Your social feeds might be quite sparse and have little engagement across them.
So, what content do you need to produce?
Two. You start testing and learning
You try fixing some of the business problems you face with content – often kicking off in the marketing or customer service area. The results are inconsistent and you start looking across different departments to try and improve them. You experience that penny dropping moment when you realise that the way you are organised is fundamentally misaligned to the way your customers see things.
So, how do you align yourself to the customer journey?
Three. You start mapping content to the customer journey
You start understanding what the content requirements are across the customer journey. The process of doing that keeps you focused on content and the customer rather than technology and platforms. You start seeing the value in customer centricity and working across channel and product silos.
So, how do you put content at the heart of strategy?
Four. You start managing content properly
You are organising yourselves around the need to plan, develop and manage content across multiple channels. You hire new skills and define new roles. You hook up your measurement and evaluation so that you can start optimising what you do in real time. This thing is really starting to fly.
So, how do you really resource this properly?
Five. The bosses start to “get it”
You have developed a business case based on ROI and gained support for it at the highest level. Not only do the numbers stack up but senior management understand how exactly a content led approach works. Content becomes critical to articulating the brand and you might even be developing entirely new business models around content.
So, I guess you have made it!
Another nice way of looking at it is how things are changing as you move from one mode operandi to another. The really interesting thing for me is how you start to move towards ‘always on’ marketing programmes rather than running time focused campaigns and you start to budget around the themes you are supporting instead of the channels across which you tell your brand story.
Last week I managed to find the time to attend Cool Content in Brighton, part of the impressive Brighton Digital Festival. And I’m glad I did. Focused on looking to the future it’s a half-day event for people who work with digital content and want to share ideas with their fellow content professionals. I got the feeling we might one day be at something much much bigger and say ‘Hey, remember the first one of these?’.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again. These events represent fantastic brainfood. Even if it’s half a great idea that comes out of it that’s worth every bit of time and effort attending. As diverse and inspiring each of the presentations were the one that made a lasting impression was that given by Paul Annett and Tim Paul of the Government Digital Service. That will be no surprise to those of you who know me.
Ten guiding principles to guide the delivery of government digital stuff.
Start with needs*
Design with data
Do the hard work to make it simple
Iterate. Then iterate again
Build for inclusion
Build digital services, not websites
Be consistent, not uniform
Make things open: it makes things better
(*user needs not government needs)
For those of you that have anything to do with spending public money on ‘doing digital’, I urge you to take a look at the principles in more detail. They make so much sense. It was nice too to see some of the guys I work with inspired by what was said. Just because it’s government doesn’t mean it has to be anything less than brilliant.
I am going to risk over simplifying things. It’s the antidote to over complicating things and, lets admit it, sometimes digital marketing types have a habit of doing that. Digital marketing is really only about two things. Content and distribution. That’s it.
We are all in pursuit of the holy grail which goes something like this. We have to get the right piece of content in front of the right customer on the right device at the right time in their decision making process to drive the right action. All within the context of a set of specific marketing targets that are tied closely to a defined set of business objectives.
Enter Place and Destination Marketing. It’s an interesting beast. You don’t own the product. In many cases you don’t sell the product. There is no try before you buy and you are selling an approximation of a holiday or trip the visitor might have. Sounds tough doesn’t it.
Expectation and reality can only be addressed through content. For destination marketers content is all they ever had and likely all they ever will have. Place and Destination Marketing really is a content led business.
Luckily destinations generally have a huge network of content creators, curators and consumers around them. That represents a hugely valuable content ecosystem. At the nation level that network extends across a whole country and incudes anyone and everyone who lives there, works there, visits or has an interest in that country. The content challenge therefore must be how you harness that potential and support the effective distribution of great destination content.
Offering that network something to line up against is certainly part of the solution. The destination’s brand defines a point of view around what that destination stands for and a basis for engaging with customers as well as creating the right kind of content. The story that the destination is trying to tell adds further clarity around the type of content to create and when to create it. Finally, and crucially, defining and offering up an appropriate taxonomy around your what your destination has to offer and it’s particular strengths provides a basis for organising your destination’s content. That provides a common language for creating, sharing, relating and distributing content.
Visit Wales have made some good progress in this area and they are working hard around getting the industry, marketing partners and other stakeholders to contribute to the Wales content ecosystem through the better tagging and sharing of great Wales content. They have produced three explainer videos covering the concept, tagging and sharing as well as how you apply the approach to sharing Wales images on flickr. They’re worth a watch. Here’s the first one.
I’m not a fan of sweet fizzy drinks but if you have not seen this and you are even slightly interested in the evolving and critical role that content plays in digital marketing you should take a look at these two videos from Coca Cola.
The videos introduce what Coca Cola call the move from ‘creative excellence’ to ‘content excellence’ and describe the role and evolution of different types of storytelling … and the bit on research is also really interesting.
This stuff is applicable to almost any content related challenge.
Whatever the brand. Whatever the industry.
I’d love to see how they drive cultural change across the organisation to support what the videos are saying. I guess that’s one of the reasons they made them!
Despite what you might think of their products this is great stuff.
I remember recently seeing something like this on twitter, ‘When I don’t tweet I don’t get any work. When I do tweet I don’t get any work done’
Blogging is a bit like that and I have woefully disregarded our blog for more than a few weeks now. My head has been well and truly in the “do”. Do as in “doing”, not do as in “do do”. Sound familiar? Well here are some thoughts on how to keep ahead of the always on and everyone is a publisher game … or maybe just cope when you are not.
Prior planning and preparation prevents piss poor performance. Do they actually say that in the British Army? I imagine they probably do and, guess what, they are right. There is a lot of truth in the post Seven reasons why your blog sucks and what to do about it. Have you got a plan?
Of course that is a bit like your Mum asking you where you saw it last when you have lost something. A bit annoying. The other thing you can do is give yourself a helping hand and become better at curating content. For starters try the three things mentioned in the post How to use content curation to add value to your own website.
So, what about when you are really struggling? Well hopefully you’ll stumble across something that really resonates with you and some of the things you are working on. Close to the bottom of the list maybe but there’s even value in recycling good content across your own network.
Here’s a good example. We are talking to a bunch of people around paid search and how we might use the channel differently. Less as a direct channel and more of a brand channel. The video describes it better, ‘A Peer branding campaign. A media buy that is not a media buy. A way of tying Converse directly to consumer interest’. When God made Americans he must have had videos and presentations like this in mind. Neat!
Last week was Social Media Week. Running in cities across the world from New York to Istanbul to Hong Kong. I attended one of the events in London hosted by iCrossing and sat on the panel discussing What next for Content?. When I walk away from events like this I usually have three take-outs in mind. So what were they?
Where developing digital marketing strategy is concerned taking a content led perspective is one of those simple unifying ideas that supports everything we do. At a simplest level that might be an organisation wide content calendar that is adopted by and supported by the whole organisation.
That same perspective supports integration. Having an idea of what type of content is required for which customer and for what purpose across the customer journey as well as how that is going to be measured is one practical way to drive integrated planning.
Regardless of specific purpose there are some overarching principles. For example, content should be engaging, shareable and findable. But above all it should be useful for the user. Don’t forget, good SEO and good user experience are becoming one and the same thing.
If you are interested here are the associated slides by Antony Mayfield and a short video of the event. And why not check out the Google Art Project too while you are at it. Enjoy.